Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dancing at "Flash" 3: Breezers and Caesars, Oh My!

WARNING: Adult situations and sexual themes are discussed Once again, this blog includes details about my encounters with male strippers! Readers' discretion is advised!

This marks the third chapter in my series on Toronto's "members only" strip club Flash. (Check out Part One and Part Two for what you missed!) What began as a fluke started to become a regular occurrence due to one dancer that drew my interest. I nicknamed him VinTatum (after Vinny from Jersey Shore and Channing Tatum) and was hoping to see him one more time after he hinted he might be leaving in the New Year. Something about VinTatum sparks my creativity and passion, but also leaves me worried about how smitten with him I've become.

In between visits, I also discovered an amazing book called All I Could Bare: My Life In The Strip Clubs Of Gay Washington, D.C. by Craig Seymour. I stumbled upon this memoir when searching for other writings on gay strip club experiences and I highly recommend it! Seymour delivers vivid stories of his personal journey as a grad student who becomes a stripper on the way to his Ph.D. The book is a great read, filled with compelling debauchery and fantastic pop culture references. More importantly, it gave me a first hand account of what it's like to be a dancer in a club. That was a perspective I was very curious about after my experiences as a customer at Flash.

On a recent Saturday, I entered Flash with a sense of familiarity and didn't know if that was a good thing or not. This was my fourth trip to the club and I realized I was becoming a semi regular. After checking my coat and bag, I went to the bar to order my usual - a Pineapple Bacardi Breezer. My attention then shifted to what appeared to be a new dancer getting advice from the bartender about his new gig. Part of the fascination with the club is feeling like I'm an extra on the set of a really intriguing movie filled with titillation and drama. Even though I'm not getting paid, I'm soaking up whatever I can about the atmosphere every time I step in.

By now I should be used to the laser light show, but it always adds a music video feel to the stage that's pretty alluring. (Don't go anywhere near this if you have epilepsy, as it gets pretty intense.) While songs pump and throb, the lights punctuate the heady mix of alcohol and sexuality that co-exist within the venue. Even the porn at the bar was catching my attention more than usual. Something called Fraternity X was on with college students going through some pretty intense exams during their pledge week. My own initiation to Flash might have been over, but I still felt like I was in a haze.

I'm not sure how much I was influenced by All I Could Bare, but I felt like the dancers had a fun exuberance and more camaraderie than I previously observed. They were all teasing each other, joking and playing around like a clothing optional band of brothers. The crowd was also pretty packed with a wide diversity of folks taking in the sights and sounds. One patron got out of his seat and danced around to some songs, popping and locking at times. Another jolly gent was singing along with a Darkchild produced remake of "Ain't Nobody" while heading to the bathroom. People were young, old, fat, thin and came from a variety of backgrounds, making Flash a veritable UN of sorts. Aside from music, can naked men really make the people come together? (Er...I should probably rephrase that...)

So if I viewed Flash as a movie set, it was lights, camera, action when I noticed VinTatum there. And if I was the extra on set, VinTatum was the star of the show, making my heart leap as he smiled and approached. "What are you doing here so early?" he asked. "Hoping to see you, since you weren't here last week," I replied, feeling like a nerd trying to make small talk with his studly crush at a high school dance. "What was I doing last week?" VinTatum said, searching through his mental Rolodex. "Oh yeah, I was at a friend's birthday party. I've been pretty busy." I mentioned having a few days off from the stress of the store I work at, while he talked about finishing up his Christmas shopping. "You're coming for a dance later, right?" he asked. I confirmed I would.

In between talking to me he worked the room and was busting out all kinds of personality. In fact, he was more humourous than I was expecting, breaking into a hilarious faux cockney accent on occasion. He let loose with little dance moves and sang along with songs this time too. I was witnessing what a natural charmer he was with everyone he encountered. Quickly enough it was his turn to grace the stage, and he was wearing a fake pair of glasses that made him look even hotter. He was very playful, smiling and having wacky antics with his eyewear, which were soon resting on a very provocative perch. He also looked right at me and let out a really cute laugh when he saw my eyes popping out over his impressive manhood.

When he came off stage I offered to buy him a drink and he wanted a Caesar. The bartender at the front had just gone on break and his replacement was afraid to make a "bad one." We then went to the other bar at the back, where the guy slinging booze was a pinch snarkier with VinTatum. "You don't want that! It's too many calories! You'll be bloated. Aren't you on the stripper's diet?" My butch fantasy became a sassy queen, hands on hips, exclaiming "Honey!" in protest. I loved watching all this, since it added to the cinematic feel of the evening. (It also reminded me that I can eat a baconator and not care, while it's a whole different ball game for those who make money from their physical attributes.)

Snark aside, they really weren't able to make Caesars in the back. VinTatum then grabbed another dancer and brought him over to help the bartender at the front make one. It almost became a Reader's Digest joke about how many strippers it took to mix a drink. He thanked me, we toasted, and he exclaimed "Spicy!" as he sipped his beverage. Once more he asked if I was ready to go for a dance, but I was still meandering on going right away. He politely said he'd get back to me soon because, "I need to go make some money." It was as if the director had suddenly yelled a loud "CUT!" and the sound of the clapboard jarred me out of my trance. We weren't just two guys talking in a bar. We were in his place of business. As a bit player in someone else's world, I felt like I'd lost all my sense of timing.

After VinTatum did another tour of the room, I was finally ready and we went off for our dances. There was almost no pretense this time when we entered the private booth since he knew me already. As he leaned into me I told him he "always smells amazing" and he proudly said he had a new scent on. When I asked what it was, he replied, "Prada." I was a bit Bacardi'd, so I fumbled my way through a reference to "The Devil Wears Prada." Given the cross around his neck, I'm not sure he appreciated the metaphor, but he was a temptation I had trouble resisting.

Not long after the cologne talk, he showed me a beautiful, expensive watch he had on. Appropriately, he was displaying his taste in luxury at the same time I was indulging in mine. He briefly paused to take off his shoes, commenting about how slippery they were when he was on stage. I nodded with recognition, since I had just read about Craig Seymour's fears of wiping out while dancing in All I Could Bare. After the shoes were off, VinTatum joked, "I bet you want me to take my pants off too!" I also asked him to help me keep track of our dances and he announced them with comedic royalty, all, "You are on dance number two, sir!"

As we closed the gap between us, he kissed my forehead and I squealed, "More kisses!" He then planted a row of tiny smooches across my brow. I was surprised when he slipped his hand down the back of my shirt to give a mini massage. When he was working his magic, I told him, "You're really good at that!" My hands explored his body as well, and he replied, "I concur." He was also grabbing onto me, playfully snarling like an animal. There was a weird, wild, wonderful energy radiating from him that totally disarmed me.

The little pecks on my neck and forehead prompted me to ask him if he kisses on the mouth. "Yeah, but not here," he explained. "That's understandable," I casually replied, though I felt red faced and strange for having asked. I know that a real kiss can sometimes be much more intimate than any bawdy physical act taking place. But it was like I had smacked face first into the glass wall that separates the desire within the transaction from real life. I'm limited in the tools I can use, since my non-cash charms have less value here. He's limited in how much he can give me in satisfying what I want without giving away too much of his "real" self. The parameters of our exchange were sometimes difficult to maneuver.

Seemingly, he tried to make it up by kissing my neck again and put on a stupendous performance for me. When he asked how many dances I wanted, I sighed dreamily, "A lot..." (For the record, I settled on lucky number seven.) Once again I told him how gorgeous he was and went into my usual ramble of, "I like you too much and that's dangerous!" That was my polite way of saying, "Hi! You're like a narcotic to me and I'm stretching my paychecks thin to keep getting my fix! Do you have a patch I can wear to wean myself off of you?" Maybe the patch would smell like Prada. At any rate, VinTatum really gave his all trying to make the dances special for me and I appreciated that quite a bit.

When things wrapped up, we bantered again about the upcoming holidays. He mentioned he still had last minute shopping to do for people and hoped to get them some nice stuff. I got out my wallet, we settled up, then he pulled me into a hug and told me I was awesome. I countered, "No, you're awesome!" We ended our back and forth with him saying he was glad he could make me feel so good. He then added he was going back on stage to dance soon, so I stayed around to watch. But I also wondered if it was odd to wait for his performance, since I'd essentially blown my wad for the night already. Maybe I was hoping to take in just a little more of that sparkle he possessed? Geez. Was I really becoming a fanboy for a guy I barely knew? I worried that I was becoming too invested in all senses of the word.

After staking out a seat across from the stage, I glanced around at all the other patrons nearby. They were drinking pitchers of beer, meeting up with friends, texting and almost ignored the dancers on stage at times. I was slightly envious of their detachment. Maybe they were just better at compartmentalizing their desires than I was? I resumed watching the parade of hunks and paid more attention to the music that was being played throughout the evening. The songs at Flash are generally awesome and inadvertently capture the push and pull of the club's contradictions at times.

For example, "Die Young" made an appearance early on with Ke$ha singing, "Looking for some trouble tonight? Yeah! Take my hand, I'll show you the wild side..." The dancers are certainly willing to help you embrace your inner hedonism. But later on, Marina & The Diamonds offered the cynically tart counterpoint, "This is how to be a heartbreaker, Boys they like a little danger, We'll get him falling for a stranger, a player..."

I kept waiting for VinTatum, but the lineup got all kerfuffled and he didn't get a chance to go on stage again. It was getting late and I had to make like Cinderella around midnight. So I waved, gave him a quick hug goodbye and made my exit. The fairy tale was coming to a close, at least for this Saturday night. The cold blast of air that hit me was surprisingly refreshing as I left the club. I then headed over to Union Station where my carriage was awaiting to take me home.

This trip to Flash was intended to be the climactic ending to my "trilogy" of The VinTatum Monologues. He had mentioned "not being there" in the New Year, so I wanted to come back for our last dances, compliment his killer smile and wish him well with whatever he wanted to do. I had hoped to neatly tie everything in a bow so I could feel like the experience was complete. But instead, VinTatum's outsize personality captivated me so much that I still want to keep going back. I like being around him even though he's obviously there to make money. He's just so unbelievably charming, dazzling and unattainable. Yet again, I've developed a hopeless crush on someone I can't have.

I don't blame Flash or VinTatum for my unexpected roller coaster of emotions. But it is noteworthy for being the first time I've liked a dancer enough to come back regularly and spend a lot on him. (That feeling never occurred during my trips to rival bar Remingtons.) VinTatum is great at what he does and the better his performance, the more money he makes. If I didn't have bills to pay, I'd be tempted to quote the famous Clairol commercial and cry out, "I'm worth it!" But even a clear cut exchange of money for lust can be complicated. I can rent or buy porn and have a safe distance from the fantasy because it's playing on a screen. But when an actual person delivers the fantasy, the interaction can trigger real feelings and wants, even if you know it's a paid transaction. What I thought was a great shortcut past the awkwardness of regular hookups and flirtation sometimes brings out the exact same insecurities and issues I've tried to avoid.

Maybe there is no quick fix for navigating desire after all. My cynical side wonders how much I'm being played by VinTatum's irresistible, heartbreaking mystique. (Cue the Marina And The Diamonds...) On the other hand, he does seem to genuinely want to please the people who come for his dances. The tiny bits of reality that slip through his facade show me he's a normal guy with regular goals. In fact, I love that he enjoyed a Caesar in spite of the so-called "stripper's diet." He wants to get nice gifts for the people he cares about and has a taste for designer labels. I don't begrudge him the ability to earn cash for those things by selling his charms. But our experiences get me thinking about my own goals and how I want more than what he can give me. (Even though he does provide a very potent, enjoyable cloud of sensuality that always leaves me in a stupor...)

So what comes next? Probably more visits to Flash, since I caved and signed up for a membership! But I'll move forward with the goal of enjoying it in moderation, and trying not to overthink it so much. But I do encourage my readers to overthink about Craig Seymour's awesome blog Craig's Pop Life! You'll experience stunning photography, passionate prose and some hot NSFW documentations of men taking it off. (As well, buy his book All I Could Bare! It rocked my socks!)

Until next time, stay Frothy and Flash-tastic everyone...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dancing At "Flash" 2: What A Feeling...

WARNING: Adult situations and sexual themes are discussed Once again, this blog includes details about my encounters with male strippers! Readers' discretion is advised!

I wish I could cut together some kind of television-esque dramatic recap of my past events, like:

Previously on Frothy Pop Treats, Garth got more than he bargained for when he went to gentleman's club Flash!

[Camera pans to cute, shirtless guy] "You wanna go for a dance?"

After experiencing the dangerously tantalizing ins and outs of the club first hand, can Garth resist the urge to come back? Tune in tonight!

Seriously, though, after writing my first piece about Flash, I did want to check it out again to see if it would feel any different after breaking down all my feelings about the initial visit. And boy was it ever different. Admittedly I was coming into it a bit more lubricated than last time. (Thank you cherry brandy!) I also started to feel like an undercover reporter who thought he had it all figured out, but then succumbs to the temptation of the very situation he's supposed to be investigating. My previous experience brought out a heaping dose of cynicism about the ways that money and sexual desire intersect. This time I found myself more willing to surrender to the atmosphere, getting somewhat hypnotized by it in the process.

I started the evening having tasteful discussions with a friend about why I haven't been dating. I'm petrified about the idea of rejecting a person, and almost as squeamish about being the one turned down. That same feeling even applies to casual flings. My pal then offered the sensible notion that the potential rejection is part of the risk both parties sign up for. It makes total sense, but it's something I've never been fully comfortable with.

Cut to a few hours later where, after a few libations, I'm dragging reluctant pals back to one of the places you won't risk rejection, provided you pony up the money. I was craving more exposure to Flash, the "members only" strip club on Church Street in downtown Toronto. Depending on my mood, there are times I'm more okay with throwing cash around to buy an erotic experience than wearing my heart on my sleeve for free.

Being a tad tipsy gave things a slightly exaggerated perspective this time around. As soon as we paid our cover charges, I spotted ballots to vote for the "2012 Dancer Of The Year" and stuffed one in my bag as a souvenir. I then stared with jaw dropping awe as two guys slammed each other with gusto on the screen behind the bar. The neon lasers also made a dazzling light show across the stage as I watched a dancer reveal his red g-string with holiday bells dangling from it.

One of my friends was immediately cornered by the dancer who did a slow, melancholy performance to LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" during our previous visit. This time, the guy seemed much more lively and had a completely different spark to him. My pal chatted with him for a bit and I wondered if things had really changed that much in such a short time.

It also took me by surprise when I was recognized by VinTatum, my private dancer from last time. (In my last entry, I dubbed him VinTatum because he reminded me of a cross between Vinny from Jersey Shore and Channing Tatum.) "You're not so shy anymore," he teased. I held back from saying, "Well, actually I was stuffing dollar bills down a go-go boy's underwear in Syracuse a few weeks, probably not that shy!" Thought bubbles aside, VinTatum was super friendly, encouraging me to grab a couple of drinks and go for a dance with him later. Resistance was futile as I became putty in his roaming hands...

Despite the wandering gropes, my friends really weren't feeling it this time. However, VinTatum had an irresistible draw that provoked and inspired me, so to paraphrase Miley Cyrus, I couldn't wait to see him again. My pals agreed to wait for me outside, so I downed a Bacardi Breezer, found VinTatum and was ready for the sequel to our first adventure.

I made a joke about being "bad" during our previous encounter, since I was worried that I had been too grabby. "You weren't bad last time," he smiled. Sigh...swoon...faint. VinTatum seemed very eager to please, filling our tiny room with his intoxicating manliness, but coming across less cocky than before. I kept blurting out comments that he was a "sex god" and "so hot," to which he thanked me. Part of me wondered if he was friendlier because he knew he had me hooked. After all, I was back again, right? He invited me to feel his abs and asked, "Do I look more toned than the last time you saw me?" My eyes almost popped out wondering if he read my last essay where I said he was "slightly less built" than the others. In fact, seeing everyone upping their game made me feel like the restaurant critic that returns to the eatery after publishing their initial review. People seemingly pulled out all the stops, among other things, to please the patrons and snag a better rating.

Aside from hot men, one thing I will always praise about Flash is their abundance of amazing Diva music. I nearly squealed when VinTatum was all over me and Rihanna's "S&M (Dave Aude Mix)" began playing. I told him straight up, "Ohhhh...I LOVE this song!" Here I was with this hot guy, that hot track, and experiencing a major sensory overload. It was weird to also realize how well the lyrics fit the moment.

"Feels so good being bad...there's no way I'm turning back..."

If last time was an awkward initiation, this time I was more at home completely losing myself within the fantasy. It was a living, breathing, three dimensional erotic dream clouding my better judgement.

"Come on, come on, come on....I like it, like it..."

Rihanna's raspy insistence underscored the lurid appeal of our interaction. I even started singing along as audience participation reached new highs. Skin was squeezed, breath was heavy, bodies were writhing and making ends meet took on a whole new meaning.

"I love the feeling you bring to me, oh you turn me on. It's exactly what I've been yearning for, give it to me strong..."

There was a point when I looked up in the dimly lit booth and saw VinTatum standing there, radiating the most handsome silhouette. His killer smile sparkled, even in relative darkness. His tattoos and golden cross were the finishing touches on the striking figure he made. No matter how much guilt I held from society's conventions that it's wrong to pay for this, I didn't care. He was my fantasy and in this moment he was mine.

Funnily enough, Rihanna was followed by a return appearance of LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It." I can honestly say the "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle it" refrain will never, ever be the same for me. VinTatum gets top marks for the passion in his pants that he wasn't afraid to show. It was also fun to drunkenly sing along with the lyrics while being up close and personal with my dancer's considerable charms. When else will I get the chance to chant "Look at that body! Ahhhh..." while running my hands all over a sizzling hunk of man?

My tipsiness made me more chatty overall, which led me to bust out some of the Spanish I knew. I thought VinTatum had some Latin flair, but when I probed further, he said he didn't speak any other languages. "You speak Spanish?" he asked in surprise. "Un poco," came my reply. Part of me hoped I could use that as a springboard to learn more about him. I was falling into the trap of trying harder to humanize my temporary object of desire. It's sort of like discovering a delicious cocktail, wanting more of it and then being curious about the ingredients that make it up. You're really not supposed to know the secret recipe, but I couldn't resist trying to decipher it.

The one thing that was easy to decipher was the sheer force of VinTatum's erotic magnetism. I had to think long and hard about how far I was willing to go with my dollars this time. I settled on a "high five" since five dances would be long enough to drink in everything that made me high off my sexy stallion. At times he was literally working his ass off to seduce me into spending more. Composure flew out the window and my face essentially dissolved into what Homer Simpson looks like when he's craving a beer. Everything felt so much more amplified compared to my last experience, but I tried to be blunt about my situation. "I work in retail...I'm not rich," I explained. "That's ok," he insisted.

He then sat down on my lap and asked for a massage. I think it was a moment we both kneaded, and I definitely had his back. After rubbing him down for a bit, our time was coming to a close. Pants went back on and I gushed once more about how good looking he was. He gave me a tight bear hug, momentarily lifting me off the ground. I was impressed, cause I'm not the lightest guy around and it was a fitting metaphor for the way he's swept me off my feet. When it was time to pay, he asked if he could "steal an extra $5" to buy a bottle of water. His brazen turn of phrase was oddly endearing to me, and if this moment were in a magazine, the headline would read, "Erotic dancers - they're just like Us!"

"You should come back next week," he encouraged. I almost looked down to see if that whooshing sound really was a vacuum attached to my wallet. "Maybe later, sometime in the New Year," I replied. His face then looked a touch more serious. "I'm not going to be here in the New Year." My words then spilled out faster than logic could intervene. "Ok, I'll be back next week..."

My mind raced through the Flash flood of dramatic potential in VinTatum's casual revelation. Was he leaving in the New Year to follow his true passion? Leaving to do something he really wants to do with his life? Leaving to bring his brand of sweltering sensuality to other hot spots around the globe? My visit to Flash started as a one time thing, then spawned a sequel and now it felt like sirens were calling out for me to complete the trilogy.

One friend shared his concern over how much I was spending, asking me, "What are you really getting out of this?" I almost replied, "Songs and stories and so much more!" But Polka Dot Door references aside, I really have felt creatively inspired by these events. When something sparks that process I crave more, especially when an attractive man is involved. But these encounters do run the risk of becoming addictive. In just two visits I went from being a jaded outsider, to snorting the fantasy like it was a drug. The more I enjoyed myself, the more I wanted and that meant more cash flying out of my hands. VinTatum's alluring performances were a luxury that took me away from my everyday stresses. Sometimes you pay a premium for that kind of experience, but I know my pockets aren't deep enough to fully support the habit.

But people buy all kinds of pricey things they don't need. Expensive purses, designer fashions, collectible dolls, concert tickets and so on. We all make purchases that give us a boost, however superficial they may seem. Yet, there's still a clutching of the pearls when it comes to money and sex. Is it fair to consider his work so much more shameful than anything else we consume? I admit my mind struggles with the idea of paying for something that could be found for free. But a fierce feminist I know once used the phrase "Our business is your pleasure" while advocating for sex workers' rights. I work in a store, VinTatum works in a private club, but our shared goal is to leave people happy and satisfied while making some bank in the process. We both have financial concerns to take care of. Are we really so different from each other?

The bigger difficulty is learning how to navigate my own conflicting desires. What am I really looking for? Lust or love? A pinch of both? It's as if my internal GPS broke down and I'm trying to download new maps to help me recalculate my destinations. Flash provides me with a dangerously tempting shortcut past the grittiness of more cost efficient hookups. I really don't feel like wading through online messages that insist on "no fats, no femmes" and other judgmental specifics just to find someone to share a thrill with.

Deep down I know Flash is just a temporary, pleasurable detour on the road trip of my life. (My bank account definitely hopes it's only a brief pit stop.) VinTatum fills the role of the hunky drifter with a dazzling smile who makes me feel really good before I get back on the road. There's a long way to go in the journey and a lot of uncharted terrain that I've been afraid to explore. Hopefully I can take some of that sparkly, lusty high I've enjoyed and incorporate it into my life in a way that's a bit more substantive in the future. As for VinTatum, I really do hope he's been enjoying what he does. (I know I certainly have.) But if he is, indeed, switching careers, I hope he takes on something that continues to bring out that dashing, vibrant grin to everyone he meets...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Revealing Look At My Experience With "Flash"!

WARNING: Adult situations and sexual themes are discussed This blog includes details about my encounters with male strippers! Readers' discretion is advised!

Strip clubs often get associated with raucous, raunchy fun. Male strippers in particular have had a banner year in 2012 with films like Magic Mike and TV's Amazing Race featuring a pair of Chippendales. A recent boys night out led me to Flash, a "members only" male strip club on Church Street in downtown Toronto. Although I've had several experiences with rival club Remingtons, Flash was completely new to me. It would also be my first foray into a strip club in several years.

Upon entering Flash, we paid our cover charges and gave the required signatures. In some senses we really didn't know what we were signing up for. Katy Perry's "E.T." blared from the sound system as we sauntered in. "Boy, you're an alien...your touch so foreign." The lyrics never felt more appropriate. Overall, the music was a gay man's wet dream with Top 40 Divas and pounding house anthems underscoring the hunks taking it all off. I practically wanted to jump on stage myself and swing around on a pole when I heard some of those tracks. Adult films played on screens at the bar and the atmosphere was almost like a regular gay haunt, with a slightly seedier feel.

The dancers ranged from mildly enthused to subtly traumatized. One dancer performed to LMFAO's "Sexy & I Know It" with slow, artful poses and a distant look in his eyes. It was quite a contrast to the sleazy, enthusiastic hedonism the song is known for. When I'm hoping for a sexy performance, it gets awkward when you can tell how much a guy doesn't want to be there. My mind then drifts into everything I learned in school about desire and commerce. It's an atmosphere selling sex and fantasy, yet the fourth wall is constantly being broken.

Some dancers were more skilled than others. One highlight was a guy who looked like a juiced up version of Joey from Friends. He impressively swung himself around the pole on stage right before throwing around his own impressive pole at the end of his number. I also caught him laughing and joking with other dancers off stage and it gave me flashes of what a gay take on Magic Mike would look like.

As the parade of men continued, one dancer in particular caught my eye. He was a cross between Jersey Shore's Vinnie and Channing Tatum. (In fact, he nailed Tatum's relentless "erotic death stare.") He was very good looking, but slightly less built than some of the others. It made him more "real" and I liked that. When he stripped to his Diesel underwear, I made a crack about whether or not he would run out of gas during his performance. By the end, though, my motor was revved up enough to seek out a dance or two with him.

Going into the private booth with VinTatum was a heart pounding, harrowing experience. Everything you think you know goes out the window when you try to acclimate yourself to an environment with both real and artificial elements. We immediately tried to suss out our respective characteristics to see how much we would "put out" for each other. His interest was cold hard cash and my interest was fleeting physical lust. Each step became a bizarre negotiation to test how far things would go. I tried to laugh and be personable, while he never broke character as the cocky sex god he was born to play.

He climbed onto me and his cologne was heavenly. I told him he smelled really good, to which he replied, "I know." I became Grabby McBeal a bit too quickly, prematurely reaching for hidden treasures. I thought I had ruined everything when he remarked, "It would be nice if you asked before touching." After apologizing, I paused for permission and he smiled his approval for me to continue feeling my way around the situation. At one point he was pressing up against me so aggressively that my glasses were twisted sideways on my face. He also got pretty forceful in pulling my hair and moving my head around. A gold cross adorned his neck, which felt like a glittery symbol of the guilt we shared. Our monetized animalistic behaviour was like a wrestling match to see who could take more advantage of the other. Would either of us emerge victorious? I was almost down for the count, being high off of the machismo he exuded.

Soon I was on the edge of glory seeing his manhood on full display, but unlike Lady Gaga, I didn't have a great poker face. My eyes popped out like a cartoon character and my flushed expression exposed that I was really into him. Yet, I had vowed to stay for a max of three dances and was sticking to it. That's when the negotiations resumed and he played another angle. "You're here with your friends having a good time, right? You don't go out that much, do you? What's a few more dances?" Hearing "you don't go out that much" was almost like a record needle being scraped across a piece of vinyl. In my mind, I was all, "Whaaaaat? Excuuuuuse me? What makes me look like I don't go out that much???"

But indignation aside, he was more or less right. The last few years, I've been more obsessed with staying up late tracking my TV reception than being out at bars. But I also saw how quickly things changed when he knew I was actually calling it quits. Suddenly, he grasped at anything to get me to stay, even if it meant clumsily pegging who he thought I was to entice me to spend more. I was just as guilty of judging him as a seductive hustler who was there solely for my objectification. Our dance really was done. Underwear slid back on and he gave one last tantalizing grab of his Diesel clad package towards my watchful gaze. It was the final lure before he zipped up his jeans and buckled his belt.

Money was exchanged, we hugged, and then he was off to work the crowd of patrons again. My pulse was still racing as I came back to breathlessly describe the details to my friends. But as the high started to wane, I wasn't sure how comfortable I felt with treating another human being like a piece of meat. Or, in turn, how comfortable I felt knowing the dancers were attracted to the size of my wallet more than me. During the dance I volleyed between being aroused and feeling like a cold fish. When I thought too much about the reality, it took me right out of the fantasy. What should have been the hottest moment - experiencing the dancer's "excitement" first hand - was precisely when I started wondering if he enjoyed any part of what he was doing. The physical proof was there, as he was literally hard up for cash. But the gleam on his face seemed to come from knowing it could translate into a bigger payday, which brought a chill to my engagement with the whole thing.

Sometimes, my mind trails off wondering about the real lives of these dancers. As in, do they have artistic aspirations? Siblings that look up to them? Boyfriends? Girlfriends? Weird geeky passions? Big dreams that a temporary cash infusion would help propel? Rival bar Remingtons spells it right out on their main web page with the somewhat hilarious cattle call, "Always hiring new male dancers. Don't be shy, come on in for an audition. Earn great cash to pay your rent, cell phone, school or anything you desire."

There's that word again - desire. Desire fuels the market and the market's open for you to sell yourself to pay for life's essentials. But even desire without a fee attached can lead to an intimidating set of negotiations. Rich Juzwiak wrote a compelling piece on how the hookup app Grindr can simultaneously be thrilling, addictive and awkward. Sexuality in general seems to be one of the great vices we can't escape. We are always selling ourselves in some way, even if money isn't involved. The strip clubs, the dancers, or any of the modern ways that we package and consume sex are not inherently bad. The real dilemma come from the lack of communicating our desires in a way that benefits all parties involved.

A place like Flash makes it even more apparent that so many of us are literally dancing around what we really want. Our desires never quite fit as neatly into our lives as they should. Paying money to satisfy some of those cravings should theoretically make things easier, but it doesn't. I think back to Katy Perry singing, "Boy, you're an alien...your touch so foreign..." More than a few folks inside the bar on and off stage probably feel like outsiders. People crave connection, but it's hard to connect when two different desires clash. When a guy lets you paw him intimately, but he's really just there to pay his rent, it suddenly feels a lot less intimate.

Then again, I'm also a giant hypocrite because as much as I can delve into the psychology behind my experience at Flash, I totally want to go back. (I'd also love to send a note to my former English professor and let him know that I can't even enjoy a lap dance without thinking critically about it...) I made a joke to my friends before I went off for my dances that it was like gambling. As long as I played within my limits, I'd be okay. We all take on gambles and risks to make the most out of our lives. Erotic dancing is another means to an end for some people and depending on the dancer, probably isn't any worse than a lot of other jobs out there. In fact, someone in retail could be just as much of a hustler and be putting on their own brand of performance. They might do it with a few more pieces of clothing on, but in life we're all trying to find ways to make ends meet. Sometimes that goal comes with a little more Flash and sizzle than you'd expect...

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Head Is Still Overheating...

In our last Frothy episode, I sang the praises of Damon Suede's fabulous novel Hot Head which inspired me to get back into my own writing. At the risk of sounding like AC/DC, his book shook me all night long. I spent hours devouring as much as I could each night, not wanting to stop. I even spent most of a workday distracted by thinking about what might happen next as I got closer to finishing it. The feelings that the novel pulled out of me were like an unexpected emotional orgasm, all "Whoa, what's happening? This is AMAZING...I can't believe I FEEL all this!" So now, as I lay in the afterglow with a rush of nervous, jittery excitement, I'll attempt to put into words how the novel resonated with me.

For the last four years, it seemed as if a certain part of my emotional being had dimmed. When my last relationship ended in 2008, it was like an emergency alert system kicked in and shut down my capacity to feel anything deeper than flirtation. Even though Juliana Hatfield astutely sang "A heart that hurts is a heart that works," I couldn't handle putting so much of myself into chances that failed.

Enter Hot Head. Damon Suede's book was so engaging that it absorbed me into the world he created, while simultaneously bouncing me back to feelings I thought I had buried. There were plenty of special "moments" from my past I was afraid to embrace due to the "failure" of the circumstances around them. It takes a good writer to create characters so real that you connect and identify with slivers of your own life experience through their journeys.

In Hot Head, Griff agonizes over his love for best friend Dante, searching for any little "sign" that Dante might feel the same. Suede achingly conveys the intoxicating cocktail of hope, yearning and palpable tension searing through Griff's veins. Those moments made me recall my own experiences with a straight best friend during my University days. There were times when I'd look over at him and the tiny smile he returned would radiate with warmth. Some of his most subtle gestures made me feel so special, connected and close to him. So it was no surprise that I fell hard and fast, engulfed in the rush and panic of wondering if he might reciprocate my feelings. He helped me come out and there were more than a few surprises along the way. Unfortunately, our friendship turned into a flaming disaster that could have benefitted from Dante & Griff's firefighting skills. But Griff's struggles took me right back to the early days of my burgeoning sexuality, with the pure, intense and confusing moments of figuring out what it is to be in love with another man.

Another powerful moment in the book illustrates the ability that one kiss has to transcend the world around you. The imagery brought back echoes of late 2007 when my boyfriend at the time came with me to my workplace Christmas party, held at a Church in my neighbourhood. When the party was over and folks were leaving, we found ourselves stealing away to one end of the parking lot. With the faint murmur of co-workers chatting in the background, our lips met and we shared one passionate, lasting kiss with the snow under our feet, the Winter sky eerily still and the Church towering over us. In that one moment, it was he and I together in our own world on that cold December night, no matter who or what was around us. There's a certain chivalry in wanting to share an intimate, heartfelt moment so badly that you risk the looming threat of outsiders impeding or intruding on it. The novel expertly kicks this scenario up a few notches, with much higher stakes involved.

When my boyfriend and I (amicably) broke up in 2008, I almost felt like that was my "last chance for love." (That title alone already sounds like a juicy melodramatic novel...) All of my past regrets and hurts were hanging over me and I felt like I couldn't take wearing my heart on my sleeve anymore. If love were fast food, I would have probably stepped up to the counter and said "Hold the relationship, I'll just have the light crush instead...oh, and maybe a few sprinkles of lust on the side!" Years passed and I wondered if I had gotten too reserved, too cold to let myself get engrossed in anything reminiscent of the vulnerable, tantalizing stirs of romance that I once knew.

So when I read Hot Head, it was like an EMT (Tommy?) had put paddles on my chest and brought me "back" to feel things more intensely again. I hadn't been moved that way in a long time. One of the phrases in Suede's novel that rang out like a battle cry was "loving with an open heart." It's so easy to be jaded and lose sight of finding your "happy ending" because real life always gets in the way. Even in the compelling world of Hot Head, love isn't necessarily easy, but it is shown to be something worth fighting for.

Quite possibly, the most important thing I learned from Hot Head is that I should be less afraid to embrace, let alone trust my own "open heart." With the newfound exuberance the novel brought out of me, I feel more passionate about living and loving, even if romance isn't in my immediate future. With this renewed vigor pulsing through me, I engaged in a very nice chat with a sexy, swarthy gentleman at a Halloween party I recently attended. It felt like the gates of my heart were finally starting to swing open a bit more freely again and I wasn't spooked by it...

Once again, I encourage everybody to buy this AMAZING book. Check out Damon Suede's page for reviews and an excerpt as well as these links to buy it:

Kobo Books

Amazon (Canada)

Dreamspinner Press

There's also another great interview with Damon talking about the origins of how his novel came to be. (Some spoilers in the interview, so read with caution!) Check out Jadette Page's blog for Damon's intriguing and fascinating behind the scenes details!

And if you're not all linked out, check out some of my older writings here and stay tuned for my new Frothy musings right here on this blog!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How One Amazing Book Turned Me Into a "Hot Head"!

Greetings Frothy Friends! As Britney Spears once said, "It's been awhile, I know I shouldn't have kept you waiting!" I'm practically frothing at the mouth to extol the virtues of the amazing novel Hot Head by Damon Suede.

The book came up awhile ago as a recommendation from a friend. Only recently I got around to purchasing it and it totally blew me away! Suede creates a rich world for his main characters Griff and Dante, and I was mesmerized. Here is the official plot blurb:

Since 9/11, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181, Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately, Dante is strictly a ladies’ man, and the FDNY isn’t exactly gay-friendly. For ten years, Griff has hidden his heart in a half-life of public heroics and private anguish.

Griff’s caution and Dante’s cockiness make them an unbeatable team. To protect his buddy, there’s nothing Griff wouldn’t do… until a nearly bankrupt Dante proposes the worst possible solution:, a gay porn website where uniformed hunks get down and dirty. And Dante wants them to appear there—together. Griff may have to guard his heart and live out his darkest fantasies on camera. Can he rescue the man he loves without wrecking their careers, their families, or their friendship?

I adored the characters in the novel, and Suede has a velvet touch when it comes to instilling passion into their respective journeys. I even cried during one of the later scenes in the book where some of the major plot points start coming together. Overall, the novel brings to life a vivid, heartfelt bond between Griff and Dante that really resonates.

I also give credit for the author's ability to capture that very intangible sense of when attraction and affection radiate between people with the smallest of indicators. It's a difficult feeling to translate, but as captured through Head, it's an electric jolt of yearning and desire weighed against potentially disastrous misunderstandings.

While some readers may scoff about the porn aspects of the book, the world of Griff and Dante is so fully realized that it flows pretty naturally with the story. It's in a way that scorches through the pages with heat! (The porn plot also made me wonder how raunchy it sounds to say that I loved plowing through the book and couldn't wait to finish it off...)

So what are you waiting for? Buy the book! If you're still not convinced, check out Damon Suede's page for reviews and an excerpt. You can purchase it through online retailers like Amazon or all e-book dealers. Here are a few links:

Kobo Books

Amazon (Canada)

Dreamspinner Press

There's also an amazing interview Suede did with Romancing The Book that illustrates how much research, time and effort were made to get the story right. (There are spoilers, so I recommend reading the interview after the book.)

What really surprised me is how much the book touched me, and brought out repressed waves of emotion regarding my own romantic misadventures. Hot Head is the first piece of art to move me this way in a very long time, and I'm very appreciative for that! Head even reKindled my interest in working on my own writing again. It's funny that a a novel about firefighters ended up sparking a flame inside of me that I thought had petered out!